usa shoe

#11: usa shoe

Another of my son’s shoes, and he still wears them. Not a baby any more, he’s very much a toddler now. These are his navy blue ‘USA’ shoes, made by Pipsqueakers – though they have been ‘desqueaked’. You can order them with special squeaks, you see, but daddy said ‘no squeaks!’ and so the shoes are squeak-free.

If you’re interested, this was drawn in copic multiliner 0.1 in a small moleskine cahier and took just over an hour to draw.

Oh, and Happy New Year 2010!

grey old navy shoe

#10: old navy shoe

#10 in an ongoing series, in which I draw all of my son’s shoes. This is one of the beige grey (I’ve been corrected, and I was wrong, they aren’t beige at all) shoes from Old Navy, which he has already grown out of. If he keeps growing like this, I’m gonna need a bigger book.

i wish it could be christmas every day

I hope you all had a very Happy Christmas! We did. A Merry one too.

christmas stockings

This is the very Christmassy fireplace at my wife’s mom’s house. To carry a British tradition over with me, I brought a tin of Quality Street from the UK, and to carry on another tradition (a Scully tradition) I swiftly nabbed all the purple ones before you could say ‘ho ho ho’! 

America doesn’t have Cliff Richard, thankfully. But I did make sure we listened to Slade, Wizzard and Shakin’ Stevens on the way over. Along with John Denver and the Muppets, of course! I must say thought that since moving to America, Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliz Navidad‘ has become one of my favourite Chrimbo songs!

On Christmas Eve I made some delicious mince pies – my son even left one out for Santa. I did add finely ground sugar (I ground it myself!) to decorate them. That one on the end exploded a little. I did also make big individual trifles, but didn’t photograph them, in case I turned into a foodblogger (we watched Julie and Julia the other day).  

for your mince pies only

Happy New Year!

walk this way

norwich walk

The last of my sketches from the trip back home to London. Burnt Oak, Middlesex, to be precise. Well Middlesex doesn’t really exist any more except in post codes, it’s part of Greater London these days – it has been wiped off the map (in the non-Ahmedinedjad sense, or maybe that is what he meant?). Anyway, this was the view out my bedroom window all through growing up, the orange-bricked houses and narrow tarmac pavements of the typical working class council estate. Those trees in the distance, that is Watling Park. Now I am in the distance again, back in California, far away from all the snow and chaos, and I haven’t done much drawing yet. But tonight, for the first time ever, I will attempt to make mince pies. Merry Christmas!

purple faces

Here’s a treat, a guest sketcher in my Moleskine; while at the pub in London (The Ship no less), I met up with Tamara, an old friend from university who I’ve not seen in several years, and she insisted I sketch a quick portrait in the pub (my weak effort, which looks nothing like her, is at the bottom there – this is why I don’t do portraits while out and about!). In return, she drew a very nice one of me, and one of my friend Adrian, and here they are (I’m the one with the glasses obviously). Vielen Dank Tamara! A fun outing for the purple micron pen, and a very nice time was had by all.


angels on silver strings hang from above

angel inn, highgate

After spending some time among the wild stones of Highgate Cemetery, I strolled through the park and back up to the village and sat in the middle of a traffic island, sketching the Angel Inn. Yup, another pub drawn. It’s a nice, warm pub with a good atmosphere and nice beers. I didn’t have the time (or energy) to draw the inside – some other occasion maybe. I would sometimes pop in here when I lived on Hornsey Lane, just down the hill. When I came out of the Angel Inn, the Sun had long since flown and the pretty garlands were zigzagging down Highgate Hill.

highgate village by night

I hear there is a lot of snow in London these days. Have they learned to grit the roads on time yet? I remember back in, ooh, ’04 I think it was, the second annual Arctic Blast that caught us all by surprise (by giving us three days’ notice), and how my boss gave me a lift back from Finchley to Crouch End, bypassing the strangled traffic on the main iced-up roads by cleverly taking the back streets, but then having to navigate through stranded cars and sliding buses down Highgate Hill. It was like something from the Winter Olympics, but in extreme slow motion. Pretty scary. Highgate is a very steep hill.

frame thy fearful cemetery

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images

(T.S Elliot, ‘The Waste Land’)

highgate cemetery

I love Highgate Cemetery. They used to say there were vampires here, many years ago, but surely they would all have book deals by now. I haven’t been into the famous boneyard in a long time but really wanted to come and catch some sketches here. Or one at least, while the sunlight was still good. I didn’t bother with the main paved routes but dove straight into the thick overgrown muddy paths, where not a single grave is standing straight, and ivy covers the moss-green stone tombstones of someone possibly famous who you’ve never heard of. Everyone is here to see Marx, of course, the tourists from China who all had to study his works at college, snapping a photo next to the bearded tomb; I tried to sketch it but it looked like Santa. I took photos of the cemetery myself – who couldn’t? – and one of them is below. As for sketching, I enjoyed hiding among the dead and drawing the above. I was out of the way. There was one other person I think who appeared from time to time, stealing photos between the stones, but otherwise all I could hear were the crows. I was eager to include the entrance ticket (four quid to get in, by the way) on the page but forgot to account for the red writing contrasting with the greens and greys. It didn’t stop me.

Highgate Cemetery

prince charming

the prince, burnt oak broadway

It wasn’t as grey as it looks. It was a bright cold morning (with a chance of scattered showers turning cloudy later in the day), and so after a morning spent christmas shopping in Edgware I popped back down to Burnt Oak Broadway to do a sketch of a building I’ve always quite liked, but a pub I’ve never actually entered: The Prince of Wales (just known locally as the Prince). I thought it would make a nice drawing, since I’m into drawing pubs these days. Naturally, standing on the open street like that I kept my eyes open; I grew up trying hard not to stand out too much around here (not easy for a gawky red-head kid who held his pen in a funny way). I didn’t have to worry, nobody cared, no hoodies shouting “oi!” I quite like drawing Burnt Oak, in fact. You grow up there thinking about how grim it feels but there really is a lot of interesting stuff to draw.

a merry old soul was he

The Coal Hole, next the the Savoy Theatre on London’s Strand. “Let’s all go down the Straaand, Let’s all go dahn the Straaand, ‘Ave a banana…”

coal hole, strand
I drew this after a whole day sketching in the cold and shopping in the warmth. It was very productive. The Coal Hole is a nice place to stop for a rest, and has a nice open fire next to which you can sit in a big comfy armchair sketching the coal hole(if you are lucky enough to grab it). I sat upstairs and looked down upon the suits and tourists, bags of christmas presents under the table, pint of London Pride on the table, and micron pen in hand. The pens were positively delighted to be back in the warmth, the ink oozed out beautifully like wine from a bottle, not like the reluctant agoraphobic ink I’d been dealing with all day. I migth have to buy gloves for my troublesome pens. But they are worth it.

Interesting thing about the Savoy Hotel – it has no floor thirteen. They are famously superstitious. If you book dinner at the Savoy for thirteen people they will give you a table for fourteen, and in the fourteenth seat they will place a little wooden cat called Caspar. Lucky for some. What’s more, the little road that leads into the hotel is probably the only road in the UK where you have to drive on the right hand side of the road (aka, the wrong hand side of the road). It’s a quirk dating back to the days of horse-drawn carriages, I’m told.

More London sketches to come!!!

when i first saw your gallery

trafalgar square

The National Gallery, and the church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square. I ksetched there while there was still daylight to draw in – the Sun goes down so early in London, earlier than in California (by about eight hours or so). It was bitterly cold of course, but I braved it, and not only because I happened to see other sketchers out doing the same. One artist did stop and chat with me, asked if I was part of the group of people out sketching the square for some drawing day; I said no, but wish I’d known! Someone else asked if I was an architect.

I love that the north side of Trafalgar Square is pedestrianized, it will never cease to be a novelty to me. I remember when the very idea was deemed unthinkable, back when traffic ploughed endlessly through this very spot, but when they paved it over they turned it into an incredible open space, a public plaza that was actually worth visiting (cheers Ken!). I used to work on the open-top tour buses that would stop right outside the National Gallery – which by the way is one of the wonders of the art world, and like so many such places in London is completely free; I used to joke that my favourite room was the shop, because it had all the artwork in mini postcard form and took a fraction of the time to see them all. But for me, this spot will always be where I used to catch the Night Bus in the wee hours (that is quite literally the wee hours, with drunken people peeing all over the place). Along with the rest of London. I would stand here, sometimes for hours, waiting for my elusive N5 (they are far more frequent these days – cheers Ken!), to take my tired self home. You had to catch it from here to be sure of a seat in those days. Oh the memories. I’m glad they paved it over.

sketching trafalgar square